This past weekend, Miami A attended the 2016 The Great American Mock Trial Invitational, or, as it is better known in the community, GAMTI. Hosted by University of Virginia, this seasonal invitational is considered part of the Mock Trial “Pro Circuit”, a consequence of the fact that GAMTI features AMTA’s toughest competition: #1 Yale, #2 UVA, #5 NYU, #6 UCLA, as well as fourteen other programs ranked within the Top 25 mock trail schools in the nation. Despite having competed less than five days earlier at Vanderbilt’s Grand Ole Tournament, Miami A flew to D.C., eager to repeat their fortune, “Historically, D.C. doesn’t like us,” senior Ryan Rugani spoke, “But last year we defied the odds and took first place, and we are fresh off a first place victory [in Nashville], so the momentum seems to be in our favor.” It would take a lot more than momentum to get Miami through four rounds against the most difficult competitors in the nation, and that was clear from their first match.
Miami A, with the first challenge of the tournament, challenged UCLA, who elected to take the plaintiff side. Despite the Mockhawks’ drive to retain their championship title from the year prior, the first round nerves kept the Mockhawks from demonstrating their full potential. Senior Captain Maria O’Keeffe described the hesitation, “We usually take a little bit to warm up, but UCLA brought a lot of energy and we just couldn’t match it.” The Mockhawks would take one ballot + 6, but would drop the other two -4 and -12. “Obviously not the best start,” Senior Henry Leaman said afterwards, “but bigger comebacks have been made. I have faith in our Plaintiff side to pull us ahead”.
Leaman’s faith was put to the test. Miami A’s plaintiff was paired against #19 Northwestern, who would represent the defense in round two. The Wildcats would have to face Miami’s impressive witness lineup: Maria O’Keeffe, Reeti Pal, and Adam Korn all testified for the plaintiff, giving life to Mockhawks case. Miami burst ahead in their cross-examinations, with Junior Danielle Kunkel scoring 29/30 across three ballots, and Senior Ryan Rugani scoring 26/30. The Mockhawks would decimate Northwestern, sweeping the Wildcats +22 +8 +13. “Let’s go!” Senior Adam Korn shouted as the team went into closings.
Korn’s rallying cry carried over into Miami Mock Trial’s (MMT) third round against Cornell University, where the plaintiff suited up once again. Senior Reeti Pal performed masterfully, scoring higher than any other Miami witness that round. However, the Big Red responded diligently and decisively. Jack Smet of Cornell stared down Miami’s Danielle Kunkel in one of the most impressive witness battles of the weekend, and James Pinchak closed for the Cornell defense, arguing that "the courtroom is not a place for frivolous lawsuits. Courtrooms are the place for justice!” Miami would take two of the ballots +10 and +4, but Pinchak’s closing would bring the third ballot to a tie.
Going into round four, Miami sat at 6-2-1 (6 wins, 2 loses, and 1 tie), and had a rival to face: host school University of Virginia (UVA), who had a record of 7-2. With the way the tournament was stacked up, UVA would only need two ballots from the Mockhawks to swing themselves into first place. “That will not happen.” Junior Austin Worrell told his team in a pre-round speech. Miami did have two aces up its sleeve. First, with barely twenty-four hours to prepare, Miami’s defense changed their case theme. “D.C. judges found our first theory too callous,” coach Neal Schuett told us, “so we pivoted slightly in our statements to account for that style.” Second, MMT decided to call a new witness. Senior Imokhai Okolo took the stand and burst the trial wide open with his engaging witness portrayal. “Imokhai’s testimony really shifted the momentum back in our favor,” Senior Allie Cin said afterwards “He goes right before me, so it really elevated the energy of the round”.
Miami’s efforts would be enough to stop UVA from taking first place; as two ballots went to Miami +3 and +2, although, the Mockhawks did drop one by a -4 differential. Given the closeness of each of the final teams’ records, GAMTI XIII’s victor would not be decided in the courtroom, but instead, in the tab room. Numerous tiebreakers were used to determine the top placing teams, where, Miami eventually ended up tying for third. However, because they lost in a CS tiebreaker to Michigan, MMT was inevitably awarded the fourth place trophy—a mere half ballot away from being back-to-back GAMTI champions. “It’s unfortunate, especially since our recent success has given us really high hopes,” Maria O’Keeffe would say afterwards, “but we, historically, have never done well in D.C., so, placing in the top five is still a nice feat, especially for this program.” Beyond program success though, Miami also had individual accomplishments that were recognized at the end of the tournament, with Danielle Kunkel receiving an Outstanding Attorney Award. This is not only Kunkel’s third straight award, but is also the second time she was ranked as one of the Top Three Attorney’s at GAMTI.
Miami A does not see much sleep in its future. They leave this Friday for Iowa’s Cornshucker Challenge, and will do so without the talents of Reeti Pal. “You can only ask so much of Pre-Med students. They have a lot on their plate.” Austin Worrell joked with us. In any case, the Mockhawks look to the future, whether that be the near future in Iowa, or the distant future in postseason. As coach Neal Schuett quipped, citing the great urban poet Shawn Carter, “on to the next one.”
The A Team
Record: 8-3-1 | CS: 24 | OCS: 106 | PD: +48 | Team #: 1102
Coaches: Neal Schuett, Jaime Glinka
Competitors: Austin Worrell, Adam Korn, Reeti Pal, Imokhai Okolo, Dani Kunkel, Katie O'Keeffe, Henry Leaman, Allie Cin, Ryan Rugani
Dani Kunkel (π, 30.5 ranks)